Monday, November 02, 2015

Doves in the Church

Those kind, committee-minded ladies at the Church are apparently organising events for those poor unfortunates in the Calais Jungle. Never mind that it has been reported that:
"A crisis relief charity chief is set to pull the plug on aid to the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp after discovering most people there are economic migrants ‘without any reason’ to leave their home country. The Bradford-based Human Relief Foundation has been running a project to help the ‘refugees’ at the makeshift camp and previously claimed they were all ‘fleeing war and significant atrocities.’ But a visit by a team led by Kassim Tokan, the HRF deputy chief executive, discovered a totally different picture on the ground, with unwanted clothing and food being ‘dumped and burnt’ by the migrants. Instead of vulnerable families fighting for survival he found the camp – dubbed the Jungle – was ’95 to 97 per cent’ adult men.

"The discovery has prompted the charity – which sends relief aid to people in desperate need around the world – to change its aid policy in respect of the Calais camp where around 4,000 people are living. They found chaotic conditions with no organisation where aid was being distributed randomly and unwanted items later discarded in piles on the ground. Interviewed by ITV’s Calendar News, Mr Tokan admitted he was surprised by what he found. Asked if his charity would withdraw support for the camp’s inhabitants, he said: ‘Most likely, yes.’

"He said it would be better to help people in genuine need in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey rather than ‘healthy people here.’

The 'Calais Jungle' in action

I'm reminded of the iterated hawks vs. doves scenario in evolutionary game theory. You have this kind of payoff matrix.

If everyone is a dove, then they all cooperate in harmony and everyone gets a steady one unit of reward. If a hawk should chance along - with an angry sense of entitlement, shall we say? - the hawk takes but does not reciprocate. The hawk gets a reward of 2 units while the dove gets ripped off. The hawks steer clear of each other - when they meet, things get violent and abusive and they each reap damage of -2 units. Eventually, there are no more doves and the whole setup collapses. A metaphor for consistent Christianity, you might think.

The Old Testament is the way to go. As you will no doubt recall, in tournaments trialling different interpersonal strategies tit-for-tat tends to win out. Tit-for-tat is really an 'eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth', as explained in the diagram below, albeit one which is quick to forgive on repentance.

It's important to recall that the specific Hawk-Dove payoff matrix (or Prisoner's Dilemma, or Chicken - they're all variants) logically comes first. It's that which determines cooperation to be good, mutual defection terrible, but defection when dealing with a cooperator best of all.

If the world presents a situation with that kind of payoff matrix, then we can discuss what strategy to adopt. Unconditional cooperation - let's be brutal - means you're a sucker. Unconditional defection is just brutal, and worse, leads to terrible outcomes when not dealing with unlimited suckers. Tit-for-tat generally and robustly comes out top: start nice, punish cheaters but be prepared to forgive.

You may have noticed that in interpersonal matters, women have an instinctive psychological knowledge of these game-theoretic truths*. And those Church women, what's that all about? Trust me, those very pleasant women will never meet a single person from the Jungle face-to-face,


* Men sometimes organise themselves into a hierarchical pecking order (the threat of physical aggression can play a part in this - think Mafia) where you can defect down but have to cooperate up. Short of running away, which is usually not possible, you're stuck with it: you play dove-up and hawk-down. The society of women is, arguably, often more egalitarian.


Here's the video tutorial for Hawk vs. Dove (just under 10 minutes). Best viewed in conjunction with reading this Wikipedia article.

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